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Towards a Children and Youths Rights-based Approach to Environmental Justice

Our environment is falling apart. We are suffering from an unprecedented litter crisis and deforestation has reached such alarming levels that every year we are losing eight million hectares of tropical forests. Every minute, we are losing 36 million football fields worth of trees due to deforestation. However, the scariest thing for us as children is not the fact that our children might not have a world to live in. The most disturbing thing to us is that we are literally being cooked by our own atmosphere and nobody is saying anything. We know that we have innumerable quantities of pollutants and that scares us as children. These were the remarks by His Excellency the Child President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Honourable Mukudzeiishe Madzivire during the Environmental Child Conference which was organised by the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) with support from Terres des hommes.

The three-day conference which ran under the theme, “Towards a Children and Youths Rights Based Approach to Environmental Justice” was held in Zimbabwe’s capital from the 30th July-2nd August 2019 and attracted regional youth groups from Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

“Our environment is under threat and environmental damage is a human rights issue which negatively affects everyone and has a dire impact on youths and children’s rights. Undoubtedly, the environmental child rights violations can have irreversible, lifelong and even transgenerational consequences. Research has established that whilst negative environmental effects affect everyone, children and youths are particularly vulnerable due to their evolving physical and mental development and status within society.

It is therefore critical for stakeholders to provide idea sharing platforms while ensuring the full participation of children. This Conference is one of its kind where we have decided to take action and ensure that children and youths’ environmental rights are protected. The protection of children and youth’s environmental rights is emerging as a pivotal component for the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals”, said ZELA’s Deputy Director, Shamiso Mtisi in his address.

In her presentation on Child Protection in Climate Change induced environmental disasters, World Vision-Zimbabwe’s Madine Chiku said disasters have far-reaching effects on survivors. Children are more susceptible than adults as there are child specific risks associated with such situations. Under such unfortunate circumstances, emotional and psychological trauma can be experienced as children are displaced and separated from their environments. Therefore, the affected children require attention within the range of disaster management.   

Perhaps it is high time we all ponder over the words of His Excellency the Child President, “We as young people are more than willing to fight for the climate that we will one day inherit. I believe anything for us, without us is against us. It is high-time that advocates – young and old, male and female, Caucasian and of colour – all spoke the same language, the language of peace, progression and proactivity, for without it, the future of our planet is doomed”.

The conference saw the young people developing a campaign for the protection and promotion of youths’ environmental rights.

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